May 27th, 2011

Twin Orbs

Yu-Gi-Oh ZeXal - My First Impressions.

Okay, this is going to get a little geeky. There are two television series that I watch as a sort of a geeky guilty pleasure. The first is Power Rangers (Power Rangers RPM kicked ass!), and the second is Yu-Gi-Oh. In the case of Yu-Gi-Oh I only watch the Japanese version, because the American 4Kids dubbing makes me want to go out and punch babies in the throat. I watched the American version of the first series simply because Dan Green's voice is pure sex. Thankfully it seems that 4Kids won't be getting their inept hands on another Yu-Gi-Oh series ever, but that's another subject entirely.

Anyway, I saw the first few episodes of the new Yu-Gi-Oh series, Yu-Gi-Oh ZeXal. The X is silent. The Japanese promos pronounce it as "Zeh-Ahl", but I guess it would be pronounced as "Zeel" in the American tongue. Not sure.

Anyway, stop me if any of this is starting to sound familiar. Yu-Gi-Oh ZeXal follows a young boy who wears a golden artifact around his neck which houses the spirit of a mysterious dueling genius who has lost his memory. In the opening episodes, the boy, with the spirit's help, defeats a highly skilled and pompous duelist, who is set to become his rival throughout the rest of the series.

If you think this is sounding awfully similar to the original Yu-Gi-Oh series (well, original if you pretend season zero doesn't exist), then you'd be right. Yu-Gi-Oh ZeXal seems to be one big homage to the first series, with a lot of similarities and the occasional shout out thrown in for good measure. Since the original Yu-Gi-Oh was a smash hit, you'd wonder how they could possibly screw this up. Well, prepare for disappointment.

The most glaring problem with the new series is how they chose to stylize it. Even for Yu-Gi-Oh, some of the characters' hair styles are ridiculous. The overall character designs range from absurd to downright freaky. Everyone looks ridiculous in this show, with maybe the exception of the female side character (forgot her name), though I keep waiting for her to finish getting dressed. Little girls should NOT be wearing skirts that short! Every time I look at her I'm afraid I'll be put on the sex offender's list.

ZeXal is aimed at a younger audience than the previous series, and it shows. Everything from the animations to the visual effects are as flashy as possible. Who knew playing a card game could involve so much twirling, jumping, lens flares, and back-flips even when doing something as simple as placing a card face-down on the playing field. Yuma, the protagonist, is made out to be poor at sports and athletics, but watching him duel makes me wonder why he wastes his time on card games when there are gymnastics competitions he could be winning.

Speaking of Yuma, I have to say I absolutely hate this character. He's like Yuki Judai on crack. He's loud, obnoxious, incredibly annoying, and, worst of all, he doesn't listen to anyone. There are several instances in the first few episodes where Yuma gets himself into trouble simply because he refuses to listen to people, particularly his spiritual partner Astral, when they give him advise. You'd think he'd learn after the first couple of times this happens, but no. He is a careless buffoon with a bad case of attention deficit ... ooh, shiny! This says a lot about how the writers view their target audience.

So far the plot (or rather, the lack thereof) is going nowhere. We have some setup about some magical cards that flip people's morality switch to evil, which Yuma has to collect so Astral can get his memories back. So far this plot point serves no purpose other than to set up the latest villain of the week. This is in contrast to the previous series, Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's, which had a pretty strong opening. In its opening episodes 5Ds established the dystopian future the protagonist lived in, set up his quest for revenge against the former best friend who'd betrayed him, and had some pretty action packed moments.

Let me put it this way: We're currently 6 episodes into ZeXal. At the 6 episode mark in 5D's, Yusei has fought his way out of the ruined city of Satellite on his quest to get revenge on Jack, confronted Jack, had an epic duel with him in which a major plot element (the Crimson Dragon) made its first appearance, was thrown in prison, and had his face branded with a tattoo that would forever mark him as a second-class citizen. Compare to ZeXal, where we've had a couple of duels against minor villains of the week, a few vague scenes about Astral's lost memories, and that's it. I know little about what's actually going on, and I have even less incentive to care.

I'll probably still watch Yu-Gi-Oh ZeXal, if for no other reason than because I need my anime card battle fix. Perhaps the series will improve over time. Yu-Gi-Oh GX had a slow start too, then that series took a dark turn and got interesting. I hope the same happens here.
  • Current Mood
    bored bored

Red Faction: Armageddon Demo

OnLive announced yesterday that they are now the exclusive distributor of the Red Faction: Armageddon demo. They are the only place where you can trial the game.

"Hold on a second!" you may be saying. "The demo for that game was released on Xbox Live, so how can this be an exclusive?"

Well, the answer is quite simple. First off, there is no Red Faction: Armageddon demo for the PC. If you want to demo the game on the PC, OnLive is the only place to do it. Lastly, this is not the same demo. When you trial the game through OnLive, you are actually playing the full retail version of the game for 30 minutes. You get as much gameplay as you can squeeze out in that time. Even as we speak, players are doing speedruns, getting as far as the end of the second mission before the timer runs out.

Of course, since this is OnLive this all happens in the cloud. No downloads, installs (except for the very small OnLive PC app), or fancy hardware required.

Click Here to play the demo

Personally, I think this is an interesting move. Giving players access to the full retail game before it's officially released, even if on a 30 minute timer, is an interesting concept. Even if you're not a fan of OnLive, being able to quickly and easily demo games in such a manner benefits everyone. I know I'll be buying this game after playing around with the trial a few times.

That actually seems to be OnLive's plan, according to their blog. "We love bringing this exclusive demo to our loyal OnLive members," writes Etienne Handman, Chief Operating Officer of OnLive Inc. "But, we’re just as excited to get the message out that OnLive is a hassle-free place to demo games (and spectate others playing new games) no matter what your preferred platform. If you like Red Faction Armageddon after checking it out, go right ahead and pre-order it from any distributor you please."

That is an incredibly cool attitude, and it raises a good point. Even if you see no use for cloud gaming, using it as a means of effortlessly demoing games or watching real gamers playing new games live will be incredibly helpful to consumers who want to get a feel for the product before they commit to buying it. Even if OnLive is not your gaming platform of choice, it can still be a useful tool.

E3 is around the corner, and I'm excited to see what OnLive will have to show us there.
  • Current Mood
    excited excited